Hours of Operation
The ritual of a long afternoon siesta is no longer as ubiquitous as it once was. However, the tradition does remain, and many people take a postlunch nap before returning to work or continuing on with their day. The two- to three-hour lunch break makes it possible to eat and then snooze. Midday breaks generally begin at 1 or 2 and end between 4 and 5, depending on the city and the sort of business. The midafternoon siesta—often a half-hour power nap in front of the TV—fits naturally into the workday cycle, since Spaniards tend to work until 7 or 8 pm.
Traditionally, Spain's climate prompted the creation of the siesta as a time to preserve energy while afternoon temperatures spiked. After the sun began to set, people went back to working, shopping, and taking their leisurely paseo (stroll). In the big cities—particularly with the advent of air-conditioning—the heat has less effect on the population; in the small towns in the south of Spain, however, many still use a siesta as a way to wait out the weather.
Until a decade or so ago, it was common for many businesses to close for a month in the July–August period. When open, they often run on a summer schedule, which can mean a longer-than-usual siesta (sometimes up to 4 hours), a shorter working day (until 3 pm only), and no Saturday-afternoon trading.
Banks are generally open weekdays from 8:30 or 9 until 2 or 2:30. From October to May the major banks and savings banks open on Thursday until 6:30 or 7:30. Currency exchanges at airports, train stations, and in the city center stay open later; you can also cash traveler's checks at El Corte Inglés department stores until 10 pm (some branches close at 9 or 9:30). Most government offices are open weekdays 9–2.
Most museums are open from 9:30 to 2 and 4 to 7 or 8, every day but Monday. Schedules are subject to change, particularly between the high and low seasons, so confirm opening hours before you make plans. A few large museums, such as Madrid's Prado and Reina Sofía and Barcelona's Picasso Museum, stay open all day, without a siesta.
Pharmacies keep normal business hours (9–1:30 and 5–8), but every midsize town (or city neighborhood) has a duty pharmacy that stays open 24 hours. The location of the nearest on-duty pharmacy is usually posted on the front door of all pharmacies.
When planning a shopping trip, remember that almost all shops in Spain close from 1 or 2 pm for at least two hours. The only exceptions are large supermarkets and department-store chain El Corte Inglés. Most shops are closed on Sunday, and in Madrid and several other places they're also closed Saturday afternoon. Larger shops in tourist areas may stay open Sunday in summer and during the Christmas holiday.
Spain's national holidays, observed countrywide, are New Year's Day on January 1 (Año Nuevo), Three Kings Day on January 6 (Día de los Tres Reyes), Good Friday (Viernes Santo), Labor Day on May 1 (Día del Trabajo), Assumption on August 15 (Asunción), Columbus Day on October 12 (Día de la Hispanidad), All Saints Day on November 1 (Todos los Santos), Constitution Day on December 6 (Día de la Constitución), Immaculate Conception on December 8 (Immaculada Concepción), and Christmas Day on December 25 (Navidad). Holidays observed in many parts of Spain, but not all, include Father's Day on March 19 (San José, observed in Madrid and some regional communities), Maundy Thursday (Jueves Santo, observed in most of Spain except Catalonia, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands), Easter Monday (Día de Pascua, observed in Catalonia, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands), St. John's Day on June 24, with bonfire celebrations the night before (San Juan, observed in Catalonia, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands), Corpus Christi (June), St. Peter and St. Paul Day on June 29 (San Pedro y San Pablo) and St. James Day on July 25 (Santiago). In addition, each region, city, and town has its own holidays honoring political events and patron saints.
Many stores close during Semana Santa (Holy Week—also sometimes translated as Easter Week), the week that precedes Easter.
If a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, remember that many businesses also close on the nearest Monday or Friday for a long weekend, called a puente (bridge). If a major holiday falls on a Sunday, businesses close on Monday.